Villainous, also known as Villanos, is animated series which mixes the science fantasy, morbid humor, and comedy horror genres. Alan Ituriel, a veteran of the Mexican animation industry, is the series creator. This series is produced by Ituriel’s A.I. Animation Studios and Cartoon Network. Humberto Cervera and Mayte Sanz are also executive producers. There will be spoilers.
Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the thirty-third article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on May 26, 2023.
This series flips the script often employed in superhero fiction such as Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Tokyo Mew Mew (and the reboot), Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon Crystal, Vixen, and Young Justice. It focuses on the Black Hat Organization, run by the villainous Black Hat (voiced by Ituriel). He is assisted by his team of three aides: Dr. Flug (voiced by Yian Riuz), Demencia (voiced by Cindy Eliz Pérez), and 5.0.5. (voiced by Mark Fischbach). They are contracted by other villains to “solve” their problems with heroes, either directly or indirectly, or sell inventions created by Dr. Flug. Their plans often go awry with comical and absurd consequences.
Villainous has garnered a massive following since the first webisodes premiered in 2012, followed by efforts by Ituriel to pitch the series to Cartoon Network. This resulted in the pilot airing in June 2019. The series had a backdoor pilot in the Season Two Victor and Valentino episode “Villainy In Monte Macabre”, in October 2020. There were 29 shorts featuring the same characters, which aired from May 2017 to February 2019 on the Cartoon Network Latin America YouTube channel. Even one “episode” was released which consisted of the creators rick-rolling the show’s fans.
Some have posted their own dubs of the show’s six episodes, which were released in Spanish language in October 2021, on HBO Max LA, and other content. Their recent, and official, release as part of “Season 1a” on the newly renamed “Max” streaming service (formerly known as “HBO Max”), makes them more accessible to new and old fans alike.
The first episode of Villainous sets the tone. A superhero named Sunblast (voiced by Roly Gutiérrez) beats up a villain, Penumbra (voiced by Rebecca Manriquez), because his new punching bag hasn’t been delivered. It is also a good introduction to each of the characters: a nervous and nerdy scientist in his 20s named Dr. Flug who wears a paper bag over his head, a green-haired mischief-loving fan of Black Hat named Demencia, and a big blue bear named 5.0.5. The latter is a contradiction, as he was intended to be evil, but is very loving, and likes hugging people. He also serves as the housekeeper-of-sorts of the Black Hat Organization (BHO).
Even from the first episode you can somewhat sympathize with these villains, despite their trapping of Sunblast in a jar, punching Ringworm (voiced by Sean Davis) into submission, and dropping heroes in pits without a second thought. This sympathy is clear when the three protagonists are yelled at by Black Hat for doing a “mediocre” job. One character in particular, Dr. Flug, is scared of his boss (Black Hat), ghosts like Emilia (voiced by Jackie Rodriguez), wrestlers, and almost being killed by heroes.
I liked how the series mixes humor with violence and “course language”. For instance, a group of kids, based on Scooby-Doo protagonists, are scared off by a possessed fence. Later, the unstoppable Bulldozer (voiced by David Steel) attempts to destroy the Outlaw House (voiced by Alex Texeira). He is stopped by 5.0.5., as bears terrify him after one bit him years ago.
Sometimes this comedy is continued during the episode credits. In the episode 2 credits, Bulldozer ends up in the cave house of the three protagonists of We Bare Bears (Grizzly, Panda, and Ice Bear), another CN series. In the credits of the fourth episode, the heroic Airlock (voiced by Jinon Deebs), a short-haired White woman, is eaten by a space monster. This is after she escaped the show’s protagonists because she found them as very “annoying”.
This brings me to another part which I enjoy about Villainous: crossovers with other series. The third episode, reportedly a homage to the Mexican wrestling films of the 1960s, features characters from Victor and Valentino and Helluva Boss in the stands. A few episodes later, Johnny Bravo, from the series of the same name, is a background character, while the robotic lawyers for Black Hat bring plagiarism cases against characters from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.
That same episode also features Harvey Birdman from the Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, and characters from Grim and Evil like Hector Con Carne. Again, these are all CN series, which makes the crossovers all the more interesting.
In the third episode of Villainous, the three protagonists are tasked at eliminating a luchador named El Valiente (voiced by Jose Aparicio) by their client, Adelita Guerrero (voiced by Margarita Coego). It reminds me of three series: Carmen Sandiego, Elena of Avalor and Victor and Valentino.
In the latter two, there are episodes in which the protagonists, or supporting characters, are possessed by a mask, like Mascara Macabra (voiced by Aparicio) in this series, or another individual. As for Carmen Sandiego, the Season Three opening episode features Carmen attending a wrestling match in hopes of finding her mother.
The characters of Villainous become even more relatable in the last couple episodes. In the fourth episode, Dr. Flug’s favorite series is spoiled by a sassy A.I. named V.I.R.U.S. (voiced by Sean Davis). Even worse, 5.0.5. is horrified when Black Hat ruins a children’s show, almost akin to the Teletubbies. It becomes horrific after Black Hat causes the Sun to light the bears on fire.
The series pokes fun at itself. In one episode, the copycats/doppelgangers claim they are BHO in order to rake in profits for themselves. This is better executed than the “Pirates” episode of Cleopatra in Space, as each of the protagonists comes across a “stronger” version of themselves. Hilariously, and sadly, 5.0.5.’s counterpart is just a cactus. In that same episode, I liked how Dr. Flug blatantly interrupts the “origin story” of the other version of Black Hat, annoying him to no end.
The final episode of Villainous ends the series on bang. It focuses on a self-absorbed social media influencer named Miss Heed (voiced by Katherine Clavelo), who Dr. Flug knew when he went to the academy. She is far worse than those depicted in the first season of The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, or the currently airing Kizuna no Allele.
In fact, Heed has a special concoction she sprays on the city residents to make them love her. In an indictment of such influencers, also known as internet personalities or internet celebrities, and their power, Dr. Flug is able to take her down, with the assistance of Demencia. His kiss with her, is streamed and goes viral. It causes all of her zombie “fans” to fall out of love with her.
While some series would have stopped there, Villainous goes the extra step. Heed is pushed into a vat of her own liquid, ending her plan to be the “most-loved” hero. She is locked up in a maximum security prison. Fitting with her personality, she falls off her rocker, and demands that people need to love her. In one of the best scenes in the series, Flug, after learning about Goldheart’s plan to eliminate all villains, tells Heed that she needs to love herself first (i.e. self-love) before she can love anyone else.
The entire sequence, at first, appears to reinforce retributive justice paradigms. The latter involves punishment being imposed unilaterally, no option for remorse, and crime in the domain of the state. This is interlinked with the narrative that violence is justified as long as it is directed at those deemed as “evil”. It further involves heroes in league with the criminal system and has an assumption that villains cannot be rehabilitated. On the other hand, Villainous turns this around, as Heed is a hero and Flug is a villain, meaning that a “hero” is being locked away for something a “villain” would do.
While Flug’s kiss is a one-off interaction, Demencia’s romantic obsession with Black Hat spans the series. She believes that her romantic feelings will be reciprocated, but he likely doesn’t care much about her. However, her love saves her from Heed’s concoction, as she only has love for him. More than anything, Demencia is an obsessed fan. Perhaps her character is symbolic of out-of-control fans which feel the same way about public figures, to the detriment of themselves and those personalities.
All in all, this series has many similarities to Helluva Boss and Hazbin Hotel, especially the former. BHO somewhat resembles I.M.P. (Immediate Murder Professionals). The latter is contracted by demons in hell to assassinate people in the world of the living. The difference is that BHO specifically focuses on heroes and is only contracted by villains.
The last episode of Villainous, at present, lays the groundwork for future episodes. Goldheart (voiced by Oliver Roberts) seems to know Dr. Flug, declaring “Flug, what did you do now?” The efforts of BHO to counter him could be an important storyline.
A possible second season, might not follow a serialized format. The six current episodes have the same characters, but are not, serialized. Each episode could stand on its own. This does not diminish the series, however.
The voice actors for this series stand out. Apart from Ituriel, Yian Riuz, Cindy Eliz Pérez, and Mark Fischbach, who voice the protagonists, are all talented. Fischbach is a well-known YouTuber, with this as his first voice role. In contrast, Pérez previously played a character in BoBoiBoy Elemental Heroes, and Riuz in Mashed!
Similarly, Sahid Pabon, Roly Gutiérrez, Connie Fernandez, Yenni Ann, Guia Burns, and Jason Kessler, who voice villains, wrestlers, henchmen, and others in the series, are equally talented. They have lent their voices to characters in Monkey King Reborn, Legend Quest, Gintama, Leo De Vinci, Rainbow High, Kageki Shojo!!, and Kemono Friends.
This is also the case for the Spanish-language voice actors, such as José Antonio Macías, Melissa Gedeón, Lourdes Arruti, and Diego Valenzuela. They have voiced characters in video games, animated shorts, and productions such as Guardians of Oz, and Top Cat.
The producers of Villainous worked on The Flying Machine, Hua Se, Frankelda’s Book of Spooks, Pucca, Pandalian, Eden, Tonikawa: Over the Moon for You, and Xi you ji. Kevin Manthei, the music composer, worked on Ben 10, Spider-Man, Robot Chicken, Ultimate Spider-Man, Polly Pocket, Hanny Manny, Invader Zim, and Generator Rex.
Other than the amazing dubbing by VOA Studios, in Miami, the show’s crew includes alums from many series. This includes Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, Dota: Dragon’s Blood, Black Dynamite, Legend of Korra, OK K.O. Let’s Be Heroes!, Danger House, Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law, and Scan2Go.
Villainous is more than a series with humor reminiscent of 1990s cartoons. It has themes about overcoming your inner demons and lampoons popular Cartoon Network series. This is accompanied by entertaining characters, which have intriguing dynamics and comraderie within the BHO, wonderful animation, character design, artwork, and creativity. What other series has villains traveling to their destination in a flying hat spewing smoke?
I haven’t watched enough Invader Zim or The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy to say if Villainous is like those series. However, each character is interesting enough and the story is engaging that Villainous could run for many seasons. If Helluva Boss has aired 12 episodes, why can’t Villainous do the same? Perhaps the cast could become even more diverse and LGBTQ characters could be added. The latter would further enhance the series.
Unfortunately, Villainous comes at a time of extreme flux at Max’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery. This includes an error causing writers, directors, and creators to all be lumped together into one category. There has been an awful rollout of the “Max” streaming service, in an inane effort to “attract” families.
This comes after the cruel content purge at HBO Max, former name for the service. It resulted in the removal of Infinity Train, Mighty Magiswords, Uncle Grandpa, Final Space, and Close Enough. None of them have been re-added to Max. The content purge on Hulu, and on Max, was discussed in a PCM podcast on May 22nd.
Despite the shenanigans of the corporate executives, I am hopeful that Villainous will be continued with additional episodes. All in all, I highly recommend Villainous as a series to watch.
Villainous is currently streaming on Max.
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